ONE of Bendigo's favourite political sons will be farewelled during a funeral service in Melbourne this afternoon.
Former Federal Member for Bendigo Noel Beaton passed away on Saturday, aged 78, after a short illness.
A service will be held at Springvale's Blair Chapel from 2.45 pm.
The dominant figure in Bendigo politics throughout the tumultuous 1960s, Mr Beaton was yesterday remembered fondly by ALP colleagues, friends and family.
David Kennedy, who replaced Mr Beaton as Bendigo's federal MP, said his predecessor was a down-to-earth man - "the ultimate grassroots politician".
"He was one of Bendigo's finest federal MPs . . . and a great champion for Bendigo," Mr Kennedy said. "I was only 29 when I replaced him as the federal member and, to me, he was a colossus in a personal and morale sense, as well as in a physical sense." At six foot, six-and-a-half inches (199 cm), Mr Beaton was possibly Bendigo's largest federal politician and a star local sportsman.
He played for Golden Square in the Bendigo Football League, coached the Elmore Football Club and played tennis until his 73rd year.
Born in Mooroopna on December 28, 1925, Mr Beaton joined the Australian Airforce as a 16-year-old during World War II.
He and wife Kathleen moved to Bendigo in 1953, where they raised three children - Janet, Peter and Linda.
He was a factory inspector, football writer for the Bendigo Advertiser and sports commentator on local radio before replacing ALP colleague Percy Clarey with a narrow 133-vote win.
Although the Labor Party remained in opposition throughout the decade, he increased his popularity at each poll before retiring because of ill health in 1969.
He was Shadow Minister for Primary Production, a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War and a great friend of Bendigo's Chinese community.
However, according to those who knew him best, Mr Beaton will mostly be remembered for bringing a personal touch to federal politics.
"He was more interested in the people of Bendigo, than party politics," Peter Beaton said yesterday.
"I still meet people in the streets of Bendigo who recognise me as his son and are keen to tell me how he helped them.
"He was also a great father and we loved him to bits.
"When I was a kid and told him my mates and I wanted to play soccer, he got together with a few other dads, and they started the Bendigo Junior Soccer League." After leaving politics, Mr Beaton rejoined the Bendigo Advertiser as an influential senior sub-editor, and later continued his love of football by assisting the Fitzroy Football Club's fight for survival.
Present Bendigo MP Steve Gibbons also paid tribute to Mr Beaton yesterday.
"His loss will be sadly felt by all who remember him and the Labor movement," Mr Gibbons said.